With any journey,  it’s who meets you along the way.

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My immigrant grandparents called it the Old Country. After coming through Ellis Island, they never went back to Italy—they never wanted to. Why go back to dusty unpaved roads when they could set up promising lives along the golden streets in America? (Well, maybe those streets weren’t so shiny, but they did well anyway.)

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Padrone Nicola Mecca (my great-grandfather)

Upon arrival, they were greeted by the padrone, the most important person in the life of a stranger in the strange New World, a fellow Italian who had been in the US for a while, knew the language and the customs, found employment and housing, and knew where the best tomatoes grew—sort of like a trustworthy tour guide in the days  before the internet .

The role of the padrone disappeared along with mass immigration but the need for a trusted guide in a distant land has not. But who or what can you trust? TripAdvisor?—well, to a point. Your travel agent ?—in some cases. Internet sites offering the trip of a lifetime?—not always. (Setting up an impressive website is a different skill set from that of being an outstanding professional tour guide.)

So why should you know Linda and Daniela, Fulvio, Lorenzo, Marlene, Katie, Susan, and Gioia?Because they are on my list of experts in Italy, a carefully curated collection of people who—like the padrone of old— you’ll want to meet on the roads through Italy.

Italy is a multi-layered feast of riches, from the era of the Etruscans to Ancient Rome through the Renaissance and up to the present time. Your selfie in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa – that’s not it.


From my first trip to Italy in 1992 through all the over-50 subsequent visits, I’ve been fortunate to have had wonderful guides and mentors who have shown me the heart of Bell’Italia. Some have become friends and colleagues who, even now, every time I return, continue to bring more memorable experiences into my life.

So in spite of what my friends here in the States think, it’s not for another plate of linguine vongole veraci that I continue to go back to the land of my ancestors, over and over again. It’s to discover one more  magical moment. And if there’s a dish of those succulent little clams and pasta in the deal, that’s okay, too.

To meet the special people and discover the special places that can make your time in Italy memorabile, please contact me here or at carol@carolmalzone.com







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